Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) just won his third election in four years. And rather than resting on his laurels, he sounds as if he's gearing up for another one — in 2016.
Walker, who dispatched Democrat Mary Burke on Tuesday after winning a widely watched recall election in 2012, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. And the talk inevitably turned to the 2016 campaign.
Rather than laugh it off and say that the decision on whether to run will come later, though, Walker — characteristically — was a pretty open book. And, in fact, he even said something that could rub one of his potential 2016 competitors (not to mention a fellow Cheesehead) the wrong way.
Asked about whether he would defer to 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan in the 2016 campaign, Walker went so far as to suggest that Ryan is too tied to Washington to be the GOP nominee in 2016.
"I've said many times before, I’ll be the president of the Paul Ryan fan club, but I do think if we’re going to beat Hillary Clinton in this next election, we’re going to have a message that says Hillary Clinton is all about Washington," Walker said.
He later added that Ryan might be the lone exception to his rule that the GOP should nominate a governor. That's fine, but just before that, he pretty well undercut his home-state colleague's case for running for president.
And this was actually the second time this weekend that Walker offered comments that could be construed as critical of a fellow potential 2016er.
Walker twice over the weekend leveled pretty strong criticisms of governors who took the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — including Ohio's John Kasich (R), who also won Tuesday and is expected to look at running for president.
Kasich has often put his decision to accept the federal money in biblical terms, arguing that St. Peter at the pearly gates will ask you what you did to help the poor rather than what you did to keep government small.
Walker, who was apparently asked about Kasich's comment, offered his own biblical take: “My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able. ... Caring for the poor isn't the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people into Medicaid.”
On Sunday, Todd asked Walker whether that was a shot at Kasich. Walker didn't mention Kasich by name, but he did double down, saying the federal government can't be trusted to keep funding the expansion — a case that many anti-expansion GOP governors have made.
"States that have taken the Medicaid expansion are betting on the fact that the Congress and the president, who can't deal with the $17 trillion [national debt], are going to magically somehow come up with new money,” Walker said.
And then he said this: "Relying on the federal government for your balancing your budget is really, I think, a fool's bet."
Sounds a bit like something Walker might say on a 2016 debate stage, no?
Going back a little further, Ryan and Kasich aren't the only ones Walker has differentiated himself from. In the final days of his tight campaign, Walker had some pretty tough words for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Walker suggested with a week to go that the RGA wasn't spending enough money to help him out and that a late visit from Christie wasn't that helpful.
Christie “is coming because he asked if he could come, and we weren't going to say no,” Walker told Politico. Ouch.
So, to sum up, in the past few days, Walker has expressed unhappiness with Christie (and, one could argue, suggested that Christie was promoting himself), and he has suggested pretty glaring shortcomings on the résumés of both Kasich and Ryan.
Now, before we read too much into these comments, let's acknowledge that Walker (as mentioned above) speaks pretty freely — or at least more freely than most politicians of his stature. So perhaps the fact that he sounds as if he's criticizing these other potential 2016ers is just happenstance.
A more cynical read would be that Christie, Ryan and Kasich happen to be potential competitors for the same, GOP-establishment-oriented supporters whom Walker is likely to be wooing.
... if he were to run for president, that is.